UMCOR

United Methodist Committee on Relief

Photo by Mike DuBose.

Finding Power in Partnerships

By Laura Wise*

It was a hot day, the air sticky and humid as it typically is in Caribbean countries. Trekking through a large farm with camera gear in tow, being diligent to not step on the farmers’ budding crops; it was 8:00 a.m. and the day was just beginning. The schedule was jam-packed and well planned out. Louis-Marie Bijou, UMCOR Haiti’s community engagement manager, planned this comprehensive project tour for our small U.S.-based communications team. The day was to be spent visiting beneficiaries of the PISANS project (Provision of Integrated Services around New Settlement) in the small town of Cabaret, Haiti; the project is a collaborative effort to rebuild infrastructure and community after the devastating earthquake of 2010.

A testament to the power in partnership, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) formalized a partnership beginning in 2013. Through shared developmental goals, together the organizations have been able to implement an innovative approach to development in this community.  The PISANS project, pisans meaning power in Creole, is holistic and layered programing focusing on critical basic needs. Currently in its second year of implementation, the program is changing lives and improving situations daily.

Developing an Ecosystem

One of the many new homes in the USAID built housing settlement   Photo credit: Mike Dubose
One of the many new homes in the USAID built housing settlement. Photo: Mike Dubose. 

In an attempt to relocate a group of earthquake-displaced families, UMCOR partner USAID constructed a 156 unit housing settlement in the Haut Damier, Cabaret, area of the West Department, approximately 15 miles outside of the capital city, Port-au-Prince. While this building project proved to be a concrete step forward in helping many Haitians rebuild their lives, it also created a potentially problematic situation. Attempting to merge a new community with an existing community in an already underserved location could present challenges. UMCOR and USAID agreed that this newly “integrated” community needed adequate resources to serve all its inhabitants.

UMCOR has been the implementing partner of the community engagement initiatives for this new settlement for the past two years. Creating a four-point program to ensure that the merging of communities is as seamless as possible, UMCOR is focused on four programmatic areas within the Cabaret community: 1) water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH) 2) education 3) livelihoods, and 4) community engagement relations.

“It’s kind of like an ecosystem,” describes Thodleen Dessources, UMCOR program manager for Haiti. “We have tried to take a systematic approach, looking at all needs of the community and addressing them in a holistic manner. The identified needs and proposed solutions often feed into one another and for better or worse impact one another.  These needs, thus cannot be addressed in silos. Let’s take a simple example, you cannot build latrines for households without also teaching families the importance of properly washing their hands after use, thus impacting their quality of life and decreasing the likelihood of gastrointestinal diseases such as cholera.  With the PISANS project, we’ve tried hard to create this ecosystem building on the natural correlation between WASH and health.” UMCOR has worked tirelessly to ensure that the project has taken a holistic and integrated approach to the community’s development.   

A Sense of Hope

A farmer in the Cabaret community is able to water his crops in a drought thanks to the community’s water pump, a tool acquired through a PISANS grant.  Photo credit: Mike Dubose
A farmer in the Cabaret community is able to water his crops in a drought thanks to the community’s water pump, a tool acquired through a PISANS grant. Photo credit: Mike Dubose.

The project, not yet finished, has an estimated goal of completion in June 2014.  But, preliminary evidence shows that the project has been successful. Bijou explains the community’s victories. “We have seen many successes in each of our four focus areas. With the WASH program, people have adopted better behaviors regarding how to protect themselves from disease. They now know how to treat [purify] their water. With the education program, teachers have been better trained to provide quality education for the children in the community. In the area of livelihoods, many families are now able to run a business with the financial support and training provided to them from UMCOR. In community engagement, there is now a better harmony between the old and new residents as both communities, now one, are better able to articulate its needs and realize their goals.”

A tailor is able to expand his business thanks to his UMCOR small business grant  Photo credit: Mike Dubose
A tailor is able to expand his business thanks to his UMCOR small business grant. Photo credit: Mike Dubose.

The most significant sign of the project’s success is the potential to expand and replicate this integrated model in another community in a nearby area. 

Now, five years later, the physical wounds have begun to heal. The Cabaret community is now better able to support its own basic needs. This is a community in recovery, and in the five years since the earthquake, a new “ecosystem” has been created to address the many needs.

There is a sense of hope among the people explains Bijou. “The families are happy to have social lives again. Living in decent homes in a respectable environment has meant a lot. Most importantly these families have regained the dignity they lost when they were forced to live under tents. The collective community both host and new, are now more independent. They appreciate our efforts, yet don’t want to continuously be helped by humanitarian organizations. They want to hold on to their independence. Through the PISANS project, the community members in Cabaret are finding their power. 

Your gift to UMCOR Sustainable Recovery and Development, Advance #3021951, supports communities like this one on the long road to recovery after disaster. One hundred percent of your gift goes to the Advance you designate.

A farmer displays tools received from UMCOR  Photo credit: Mike Dubose
A farmer displays tools received from UMCOR. Photo credit: Mike Dubose.

*Laura K. Wise is a mission intern serving as a mission communicator with The General Board of Global Ministries at its New York City headquarters.

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Your gift to UMCOR Sustainable Recovery and Development, Advance #3021951, supports communities like this one on the long road to recovery after disaster. 

Haiti 5 Years Later

Boots on the Ground: Haiti and UMVIM
The UMVIM program has been indispensable in helping to rebuild Haiti over the last 5 years since the 2010 earthquake.
Photo by Mike DuBose.
Finding Power in Partnerships
A look at the PISANS project, a model, and integrated suite of programs helping to improve the quality of life for a Haitian community.
Haiti Earthquake: Recovery to Development
Five years after a devastating earthquake, United Methodists, together with their church and nongovernmental partners, work with Haitian communities o ...
Haiti Timeline: 2010 - 2014
A timeline of events of UMCOR's effort in Haiti's rebuilding.
Haiti: Prayers & Tributes
Read prayers and poems in dedication to the five-year anniversary of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
Keeping Faith with Haiti
Using photographs from 2010-2014, United Methodist Communications photographer Mike DuBose presents a visual record of how an earthquake changed this ...
Portraits of Haitian Women Entrepreneurs
UMCOR's SEED program in Haiti funds women entrepreneurs.
Remembrances
Testimonials about staff who lost their lives in the Haiti earthquake.
Road to Restoration: Haiti 5 Years Later
A journey into the UMCOR projects, partnerships, and relationships that have made the last five years in Haiti possible.
UMCOR Partners in Haiti
A list of partners with whom UMCOR has collaborated to support the Haitian people on the road to restoration.
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